The Nigerian government has been asked to promote cessation of tobacco use by incorporating the strategy into primary healthcare services nationwide in line with Article 14 of the WHO Framework for Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).
At a press briefing in Lagos to mark 2021 World No Tobacco Day, the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) said through smoking cessation programmes — screening for tobacco use, provision of brief cessation advice to smokers, and offering of cessation treatments — a reduction in the smoking prevalence rate among Nigerians will be achieved.
CAPPA Executive Director, Comrade Akinbode Oluwafemi said the theme of this year’s commemoration, ‘Commit to Quit’, is significant in view of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on smokers. “Research has shown that COVID impacts are more precarious for smokers who are already susceptible to lung damage due to smoking. The studies suggest that there is a higher incidence of severe lung complications for smokers who contract COVID as compared to non-smokers.”
Oluwafemi, a frontline anti-tobacco advocate in the country listed the benefits of quitting smoking to include reduction in the likelihood of developing cancers, heart attack, stroke, chronic lung disease, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19.
He, however, emphasized on the need by the government to support smoking cessation policies by embracing initiatives such as providing easily accessible quit lines and free or low-cost medication for smokers.
The New Diplomat had reported that the Nigerian government has since gazetted its anti-smoking laws after several years of stalling. But Oluwafemi lamented that “a disturbing reality is the fact that the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019 that can make that environment a reality are yet to be enforced.”
He called for a comprehensive enforcement of the laws without delay to address thematic areas which include ban on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorships by tobacco multinationals and trade groups in the country; Enforcement of graphic health warnings on tobacco packs; the ban of the sale of tobacco products to underage; Increase taxes on tobacco products to make them less affordable as well as operationalize the Tobacco Control Fund by plowing back revenue generated from tobacco taxation.
In his presentation, Dr. Francis Fagbule of the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan noted that smokers’ commitment to quitting must be matched by support from health professionals and supportive regulatory environment in Nigeria.
Fagbule hinted that this was brought to the fore in a research by Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU)’s Africa Centre for Tobacco Industry Monitoring and Policy Research (ATIM) in South Africa in collaboration with researchers at the UCH.
“Studies show that few people understand the specific health risks of tobacco which include lung cancer, heart disease and stroke. Brief advice from health professionals can increase quitting success rates by up to 30%, while intensive advice increases the chance of quitting by 84%.
“Of the audited health records, 33.1% of patients had documentation of physicians’ inquiry of their tobacco use.
“Among identified tobacco users, it was documented that 12.9% were offered some form of tobacco cessation advice; Patients who had tobacco-related morbidities and the unemployed were also more likely to have records of inquiry of their tobacco use,” Fagbule revealed.
He added that the three most common reasons for quitting smoking (according to the smokers) include health concerns (73.6%), family pressure/disapproval (58.8%), and concern that the smoke from their tobacco can harm others (47.8%), but said health professionals have the greatest potential of any group in society to promote the reduction of tobacco use.